Monday, February 25, 2008

The Continuing Saga of Our Year in Uganda

I was up late working on a small wall quilt that will be a housewarming gift to dear friends. Using a technique from Simply Quilts on HGTV, it was sort of like putting a puzzle together. Also got a little more done on the African memory quilt for my daughter. Really enjoyed my quiet weekend at home even if I am sick :-)

It's been almost three weeks since I posted one of my old e-mail updates from Uganda. Too busy following the current Uganda posts by the Compassion bloggers! I've especially enjoyed their videos and the chance to hear again the African cadence in the way the Ugandans speak and sing. I'd forgotten the way they say "Cali, cali" with such frequency and that particular, steady beat of drums to all the music.

But now I'm ready to resume the e-mail updates. At this point we had been in Uganda just over a month and this was our 4th e-mail update:

August 2001
This past week just flew by! There was so much going on...
On Friday the Hillsdale team arrived with our suitcase and medicine. We were happy to see them! I used my cookbook right away and the chocolate chips came in handy on Monday when I made cookies for a dessert buffet/going away party for the Kilgores.

When I paid my laundry helper on Friday she went and got a young boy to translate for her. First she asked for an advance because her children were sick. I didn't have any extra to give her, and had also been warned that wasn't a good idea. I told her she could go to the office and ask for some help, because they set aside part of their budget to help people in the community. The money must be repaid, but there's no interest. Then she said she wanted a raise. I said I would talk to my husband. Ivan and I asked Gertrude, the pastor's wife, what to do. She oversees the workers and mediates whenever there are problems. She said not to give a raise. They have problems when the muzungus (whites) pay too much and the Ugandan staff cannot pay as much and have a hard time finding help. When Isa arrived for work on Monday I told her that we would not be giving a raise and she seemed okay with that. I think she was just seeing if we could be "squeezed" for more. No harm in trying!

There was a baptism on Saturday. Dozens of us walked or rode about a mile to the dairy farm, and the baptism was held in one of the cow ponds. About halfway through the service, the cows decided to head back to the barn. We were in their path, but they just meandered around us. Part of the pastor's prayer was that none of the participants would be affected (or infected?) by anything in the pond. I'm sure those involved added hearty "amens!" to that :-) Over 40 were baptised.

Sunday we had a heavy thunderstorm in the afternoon. Ivan and Tina had gone to the guest house to visit with the Hillsdale team while lunch was cooking and they came back soaked. I thought they'd gotten caught in the rain, but learned they had indulged in a massive water fight instead.

I've already mentioned the goodbye party for Kilgores. That was so much fun! About 50 of us crowded into a not-so-big space. We enjoyed a wonderful dessert buffet with cookies, cakes, pies, sweet breads and plenty of soda to drink (although it was room temperature and not cold). Then Bill, who is from North Dakota, sang a few country gospel songs. The Ugandan staff loved it! And then they launched into some Lugandan and English choruses, accompanied by plenty of clapping and stomping since we didn't have drums. We ended with an "appreciation" time, which is common here, an opportunity to tell departing workers what their ministry has meant.

Tina spent all day Monday and Tuesday in Kiwoko with missionary kids who wanted to get their hair done in those itty bitty braids before leaving on furlough. The girl with really short hair decided to get hair extensions. It took 9 hours on Monday and another 4 on Tuesday to finish hers! I don't think I'd be patient enough. The other girl's hair was long enough to do alone and they added beads to hers. Tina decided to get hers done as well, but didn't like it at all and took it out when she got home. BUT I got a picture of her first!

They traveled back and forth on boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and bought chipotis and Cokes for snacks in town. (By the way, have you ever ridden a motorcycle side saddle? It's necessary here since we always wear dresses.) The beauty salon is actually just a cement shack of sorts, with no running water or any of the usual salon accompaniments we think are necessary in America. Tina described how one lady who had come in to get her hair relaxed had to get on her hands and knees with her head over a basin while they poured a bucket of water over her head to rinse out the solution.

Babies typically go naked the first few years, except maybe a belt of beads. Tina loves kids, of course, and played with the beautician's little girl. Unfortunately for Tina, potty training is also not done until they're much older either, so little Gloria kept soo-sooing (the Ugandan phrase for going potty) on Tina. Taking a shower was the first thing on Tina's agenda when she got home :-)

With an unhealthy diet of chipotis (fried bread) and Cokes, I wasn't too surprised when Tina got sick Tuesday night. But when her temperature shot up, I was concerned and spoke to the nurse. She recommended we get a malaria test just to be on the safe side. Thankfully, the test came back negative but it did give us our first experience at Kiwoko Hospital. By Ugandan standards, the hospital is really quite impressive, with a full lab where any number of tests can be run, and an operating theatre, maternity ward as well as small houses where women from far away can come and stay until they deliver, a TB ward... The hospital was started by Dr. Ian Clarke, who wrote about his adventures -- and misadventures -- in a book called "The Man with the Key Has Gone!" The book does a wonderful job of describing the people and place, and is really a fun book to read.

We arrived at the same time as a team from Iowa, who spent one week here before going on to additional work projects in other parts of Uganda. We had thought it would be nice to buy several of their solar shower bags, but didn't think it would be possible since they would need them for the remainder of their time here. But Wednesday the leader of the team showed up, and we learned he's staying another month. And he had heard that we would like some of the shower bags, so he gave us three! I danced a jig I was so happy :-) I think I mentioned that while we have indoor running cold water, we don't have hot. The water does warm up some in its tank in the attic, but not that much. As Tina says, the showers aren't bad once you catch your breath -- about the time you're finishing! So we count it a special blessing to have received these solar bags.

Yesterday was an interesting day. Ivan and Mark left at 3:30 a.m. along with Jonah, Haji and Rukundo. This was the third or fourth trip they've made, trying to help Jonah get a VISA for England. He's been invited to go for a month of specialized training by a company that builds boats. If you think U.S. bureaucracy is bad!... they have nothing on the British. It is necessary to be in line by 5:00 a.m. even though the Embassy doesn't open until 8:00. But, at least this time Jonah actually got to talk with someone, turn in all his paperwork, and get an appointment to finalize the VISA. He had to go back this morning, but this should be the last trip (we hope). Haji and Rukundo just went along for the ride.

Bill took a bunch of us into Kampala later in the morning. We dropped off shopping lists and visited the Arts & Crafts Village. As we turned into the shopping district, the clutch on Bill's vehicle went out. He got it going enough to get to the Arts & Crafts Village, where we met up with the Ivan and the others and they diagnosed the problem. Of course we didn't have any of the necessary tools. We ended up spending almost three hours there while they fixed the car in the parking area. Then we were able to drive the Kilgores to Entebbe for their flight to the U.S.

But that wasn't the end of our "adventure". We're using the Kilgore's vehicle while they're on furlough. Not long ago they got some bad diesel that had water in it. It was causing the car to sputter to a stop periodically and we'd have to pull over and wait a while. This happened about 4 times from Entebbe to Kampala. Once Ivan tried bleeding the water out of the fuel filter, but that didn't really help. The fun part was getting through Kampala during rush hour traffic. Sure enough, the car stalled in the middle of the one busiest roundabouts, causing frustration on our part and many others! But we eventually made it through town, stopping long enough to pick up the groceries, and made it home right as dark was settling, with about 7 sputtering stops along the way. At least we got home in one piece! While Bill is in Kampala today with Jonah, he is going to get the part Ivan thinks we need to take care of the problem. And the Kilgores had already arranged for Setuba to do some work on it as well.

Ivan is trying to get oriented today while he still has his foreman, Willy, to help him. Willy leaves for England tomorrow and will be gone a month. This evening and tomorrow we will be moving into our house across the way. It will be very good to be settled into our own place, where we can unpack everything. By the end of the month we'll have three solar panels (brought one, borrowed one, buying another) and Ivan has invested in three deep cell batteries to store the power. It is going to be SO nice to have enough light to read after dark (which occurs at 7:00 p.m. since we're on the equator).

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